Family heirlooms — What would you do?

"Royal Street Antique Shop", 1918 French Quarter of New Orleans, by Harry A. Nolan. (Wikimedia Commons - no copyright restrictions in US - This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. )

Royal Street Antique Shop, 1918 French Quarter of New Orleans, by Harry A. Nolan. (Wikimedia Commons – this work is in the public domain in the US and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less)

Every day people are faced with the challenge of eliminating clutter, downsizing, and figuring out what to do with old items, some of which may have been in their family for generations. Some may consider having so much stuff a blessing, others a curse. Some may find themselves in the position of having to clear out the family home fast; in their haste, items can get taken to a thrift/antique store, destroyed, tossed out, etc.

The fact that sites like eBay and Etsy are awash with provenance-less vintage items, old photos (often unlabeled), antiques, and other family heirlooms attests to the fact that folks are either in a hurry to part with things and make money or feel they have no alternative; nobody wants these things in their families, so they have to let them go. Or perhaps they’ve been left with provenance-less items and feel there’s no point in keeping them. Maybe they’re unsentimental and don’t really care. Or maybe they simply don’t have time to care—they are busy living in the present and just trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Who knows, our ancestors may be looking down from above with amazement, wondering why we’ve held onto their stuff for so long. Are they saying, “Go! Forget this obsession with the minutiae of family history! Preserve the basics, but go live your life! Forget about my old ______!”?

Pixabay free image

Antique boot (Pixabay free image)

I guess you may be wondering what’s prompted this post. Well, the other day I finally chanced upon the previously missing button hook used by my great-grandmother’s sister-in-law Sarah Jane Bowley Sargent who had no children and died in 1904 (see earlier post).

Sarah Jane Bowley Sargent's button hook

Sarah Jane Bowley Sargent’s very well-worn button hook

When I occasionally come across items like this button hook, I am torn about what to do with them. I mean I look around at my own “stuff”—I honestly can’t imagine anyone 100+ years from now holding onto something that once belonged to me (let alone blogging about it.) Would Sarah have ever expected someone in the family to hold onto her button hook 112 years after her death? No, I don’t think so. My grandmother is the one who felt it worth keeping since she had a personal connection with her aunt Sarah. And because of that, I’m not planning to part with it, but I can’t expect the grand kids in our family to feel the same way when they’re left to sift through family items somewhere down the road.

Anyway, just for the heck of it, this week I’m posting a poll. I’m curious to know what others might do with an item like this button hook, an item that belonged to someone in the family tree several or more generations ago who was not a direct ancestor and had no children to pass anything down to. Imagine this little, seemingly inconsequential button hook was in your possession. What would you do? (By the way, currently 560 antique button hooks are listed on eBay–most much nicer than this one, but this one has provenance!)

Categories: Miscellaneous, Sargent | Tags: | 24 Comments

Post navigation

24 thoughts on “Family heirlooms — What would you do?

  1. Let our daughter look at it and decide if she wants to keep it. The son probably wouldn’t care, or might sell it. 🙂 Tasha has already wandered around our house labelling things she wants someday. –Curt

    Like

    • It’s interesting because you never know who is going to want what. I have a lot of souvenirs from travels and thought my nephews might like them, but for the moment anyway, there is no interest.

      Like

      • Some of it, I would guess, is similar to the lack of interest young people show in genealogy. It seems to be an interest for later in life, as we have probably discussed. If you aren’t interested in your ancestors, why would you be interested in heirlooms from your ancestors… –Curt

        Like

      • I think heirlooms can sometimes be a catalyst to get younger people interested. I remember when I was 4 or 5 my mom dumping the contents (hundreds of old coins from numerous countries) of an old Oriental-looking teapot out on the dining room table. Her parents and grandparents had had interactions with several missionaries at one time, so some coins were from Asia, So. America, and other places. I was spellbound, and I think that was perhaps what set me off on the road of being interested in other countries, travel, etc., and my ancestors who’d collected those old coins. (Mom had a method to her madness, I guess, since I am now the one carrying the torch, so to speak.)

        Like

      • Glad it worked. My experience was a bit similar. My Great Uncle was an author who wrote historical fiction and we had some of his books around the house. He travelled extensively and wrote books on people like Marco Polo and the Vikings. It was definitely a factor in my love of travel. –Curt

        Like

      • Interesting! Have you included him in your blog anywhere? Sounds like a fascinating guy.

        Like

      • Yes, and I went looking for him. He is buried somewhere in my 500 plus blogs. Couldn’t find him. 🙂 Anyway, his name is Edison Marshall and he is my grandfather’s brother (on my mother’s side). He had a long career of writing that stretched from the 1920s to the 50s. Seven of his books were actually turned into movies. We had his encyclopedia set from the 20s. In the map section he had traced his many journeys. I used to drool over the maps and dream. –Curt

        Like

      • I’ll have to research him; he definitely had a prolific career so there is bound to be plenty of info about him. I’m sure he would be impressed to see everything you’ve gotten up to in life and what you are doing now–living your dreams! No more drooling!

        Like

  2. Aaagh! I can’t decide. My instinct is to preserve, but it isn’t in very good condition so unless it turned out to be an example of a new button hook design, or made by Faberge (or similar), I really do think the best thing to do is throw it out.

    Like

    • I know what you mean about the instinct to preserve! Hope you are feeling much better. See a doctor if you don’t feel improvement soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks; I will. It is difficult to separate out an object from our knowledge of its owner. If we evaluate the object according to usual criteria — economic, aesthetic or practical — it may fail miserably but still have sentimental value. Maybe you could try the KonMari method? Heck, maybe I could try the KonMari method 🙂

        Like

      • I’ll have to see what that’s about. It may help me declutter in other areas.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A friend told me about this. http://tidyingup.com/

        We were joking about what we’d be left with in our lives. I figured I’d end up standing in my garden, clutching my camera in one hand and a box of old photos and the USB drive with my family history research in the other.

        Like

      • That is too funny. You should do that and have someone photograph you just for laughs. I think if Kondo walked into our house she’d take one look around and pass out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe. She’d probably do the same at ours!

        I love the photo idea except for one teeny thing. My friend and I decided we didn’t feel joy from much of our wardrobes either, so I’d likely be pretty near naked (I do have some earrings I love). Not sure that’s a photo that should see the light of day. 😁

        Like

      • Well I can definitely understand your reluctance. I suppose you could find 11 friends willing to do the same and make one of those charity fundraising calendars—there’s safety in numbers. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is such a cool idea! I loved the movie ‘Calendar Girls’ 😀

        Like

      • I loved that movie, too.

        Like

  3. Your post makes me remember going through my father’s boxes a few years ago. He and my mother had down-sized to a smaller home some years ago, so these boxes, just two of them, represented to me what my father really felt important to keep. And so now those things are really important to me to keep.

    Keep the button hook.

    Like

  4. I’m often surprised about which artifacts and memorabilia resonate with which person. My home has become a repository over the years for some items of distant relatives who didn’t have any descendants. I have been surprised how much some young adults who have no children like that I have these items. They say that they worry that if they have no children, that no one will remember them, and they like that I often share artifacts and tell stories of relatives who died years ago, but never had children.

    Like

  5. Roselane Polnick

    I was so interested in the Royal Street Antique Shop in New Orleans, My Aunt Edna Sayers, owned an antique shop on Royal Street in the ’50’s. I used to go there often. She lived in an apartment in the back of the shop. At night she opened the doors and we drove into the courtyard.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Su Leslie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Briar Rose Blog

a lifestyle blog by Briar Rose

The Walking Sketchbook

Creating Outdoors in Nature

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

Dr. Mary Ann Niemczura

Author of "A Past Worth Telling"

Very Nearly Tea Time

Celebrating the best about the ritual of tea

Outlander Online

Your #1 Source For All Things Outlander

A Dog's Life ... and mine ... and yours!

Life with Ray ... and the world in general!

Gerry's Family History

Sharing stories from my family history

The History Interpreter - Janet Few

Presenting and Preserving the Past

What Florida Native Plant Is Blooming Today?™

Daily Photo of Plants Native to Florida

Jet Eliot

Travel and Wildlife Adventures

The Chiddicks Family Tree

Every Family has a story to tell..........Welcome to mine

kelleysdiy

Where Creativity and Imagination Creates Wonderful Ideas for Your Home!

Chaotic Shapes

Art and Lifestyle by Brandon Knoll

thedihedral.wordpress.com/

Climbing, Outdoors, Life!

MaritimeMac

Go Explore

Dusty Roots & Forgotten Treasures

Researching, Preserving, and Sharing Genealogical Information For Future Generations

WitzEnd Family History

Adventures in Genealogy of the Witzel and Kroening Families

American in Korea

Everything International

The Genealogist's Craft

My aim is to tell interesting stories of how genealogical information comes to be. Please pull up an armchair ...

omordah.wordpress.com/

Art by Susan M. L. Moore

Lee's Birdwatching Adventures Plus

Birdwatching from a Christian Perspective

Story_Trails

Family history in stories recalled by Edie and Leo. Edith GAYLORD Allen, Leo ALLEN, Jr

Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” Teaching children values and giving them the opportunity to excel is essential to good parenting. However, I feel I must also provide my children (and myself) insight into the ones who came before us: our ancestors whose lives and stories have shaped us into who we are. This is my journey; these are their stories…

Myricopia

Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

Buddha Walks Into A Wine Bar ....

Sits down with The Two Doctors and .....

MarileeWein.com

DOUBLE GENEALOGY: the ADOPTION WITNESS

Applegate Genealogy

Helping others discover their roots

allenrizzi

Sempre in Movimento! Published Every Monday and Friday at 12 PM EST

Cooking Without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

Smart Veg Recipes

Welcome to home made, vegeterian, healthy & kids friendly recipes

ICI & LA NATURE PICTURES

Walk and Bike in France and Europe www.walk-bike-camino.com

The Lives of my Ancestors

Lives, Biographies and Sketches of my Family History

Down the Rabbit Hole with Sir LeprechaunRabbit

Serious about Genealogy? Let this Olde Grey hare show you about

Diggin' Up Graves

Genealogy and family history, dirt and all.

Momoe's Cupboard

Low Budget Meals and Ideas

Generations of Nomads

On the Trail of Family Faces, Places, and Stories Around the World

Your daily Civil War newspaper [est. 1995]

All the Civil War news fit to re-print

Author Adrienne Morris

The Writing Life at Middlemay Farm

Travels with Janet

Just another WordPress.com weblog

%d bloggers like this: